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Synesius, A Eulogy of Baldness 19


Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais. Photo Marco Prins.
Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais
Synesius of Cyrene (c.370-c.413) was a Neo-Platonic philosopher who became bishop of Ptolemais in the Cyrenaica. He left behind a small corpus of texts that offer much information about daily life in Late Antiquity, about the christianization of the Roman world, and the military crisis at the beginning of the fifth century.

The Eulogy of Baldness shows a lighter side of Synesius, who had a reputation as a sophist. In this text, he defends his baldness against the speech In Praise of Hair by the sophist-philosopher 
Dio Chrysostom. The text is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The green four-digit numbers are page numbers of the Migne edition.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

[1197] On the whole there is nothing good in Dio's argument on behalf of the growth of hair. And yet, if there had been any good in the case, Dio would have found it out, and if it had been small, would have represented it as great, for, even as matters are, he has gone a long way to find an example in the Lacedaemonians, an example quite valueless for his argument, at least as anyone else would think.

He seizes upon Homer as a sacred anchor and holds on to him to the end of his book, but he employs argument with entire injustice and rhetorically, as in the present instance, where he has cut out a bit of the verse as if it were a statute, and elsewhere calls up as witnesses parts of verses which do not exist, as though they existed. For he flatly defames Hector or rather Homer, and perhaps both Homer and Hector. Now the latter is represented to us as resembling the wisest men in the matter of cutting off his hair, and he who has written the truest things concerning the heroes makesthis clear, inasmuch as, I think, [1200] he made the campaign with some of these, and so served against the others, he who says these very things about Hector.

And if you go to Ilium, the moment you enter there any Ilian will conduct you to see the temple of Hector. His statue is easy to see, and those who see it are inclined to say that it was constructed with the intent to represent him as he held himself when he taunted his brother with his artificial beauty, to wit the care which he took with his hair.[1] As to what Dio wrote down as said by Homer concerning Hector,

                                            and round about him
his dark locks were dragged,

let anyone show me where this occurs in the epic compositions of Homer.[2] I do not think Ion the rhapsode himself could find it. Moreover, how could Homer have made a hairy man of the very person whom he introduces into his poem as one who taunted another with his foppishness? It is as if Phileas had accused Andocides of sacrilege, just as if he were not himself the man who had filched the Gorgon's head from the shield of the goddess on the Acropolis. Such is your case in regard to this hero.[3]

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Note 1:
Homer, Iliad, 3.55.

Note 2:
Homer, Iliad, 22.401-402. Probably, Synesius owned a defective copy. On the other hand, the essay is obviously a play, and as it can not be excluded that Dio never wrote an In Praise of Hair at all, Synesius may have tried to entertain his audience by presenting an argument that boomeranged himself.

Note 3:
Unclear reference.
Online 2006 
Revision: 3 December 2006
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